Schaumburg, Ill. – Every minor league baseball team gives away free stuff like baseball bats to its ticket buyers.
But the northern league's Schaumburg Flyers give their fans something more — a chance to play manager, picking the next player off the bench.
"At a key point in the game, Ron Kittle will radio up to our PA announcer and say it's time for the fans to 'make the call'," said principal owner Rich Ehrenreich.
So it happened one night, with the team trailing Duluth 3 to 1 in the eighth inning, Manager Ron Kittle decided it was time for the fans to pick the next pitcher.
"Mancus or Bedinger ... so you can go ahead and promote it in between," Kittle called up to the PA.
The PA passed the news on to the audience: "It's now time for you to make the call!"
Val Mancus got a strong cheer from the crowd, but Doug Bedinger got an even stronger one, beating Mancus out and coming into the game.
"You wanted some action?" Kittle asked Bedinger. "You got it!"
The fans' choice worked. Bedinger fired five innings of scoreless relief. Still, some on the team are not crazy about 'you make the call'.
"The uncertainty part about it is ... I didn't like it too much," said reliever Evan Farner.
Even the league commissioner was out-and-out against giving fans such a pivotal voice, but Ehrenreich believed the crowd should be involved.
"I wish I could say I was sensitive to that, but I'm really not because my first priority is our fans," he said.
And the fans like it.
"It's something different," said Chuck Luepke. "It gets you involved in the game."
Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.